Through their jobs as mouse-hunters, many distillery cats have achieved fame. However, these days, it is more of a PR position, with cats taking on the role of an ambassador for the distillery.
However, one distillery cat fulfilled both requirements perfectly, making her the greatest distillery cat of all time.
For almost 24 years, Towser was both an expert mouser and a beloved celebrity at the Glenturret Distillery in Perthshire.
“Towser the Mouser” was a tortoiseshell who made it into the Guinness Book of Records as the Mousing Champion of the World. By observing her for a few days, and applying a statistical technique, the Guinness adjudicators calculated that Towser had caught around 28,899 mice in her lifetime. This achievement is inscribed at the base of a bronze statue of Towser, which stands outside the Famous Grouse Experience visitor centre.
After Towser's death in 1987, the distillery appointed a new cat, Amber, as mouser-in-chief. Despite this title, Amber never caught a single mouse, and lived a life of leisure until her death in 2004.
Cats Protection were asked to help with the search for a new distillery cat in spring 2005, but staff found it too difficult to choose just one cat from the finalists. In the end, they chose two cats: Dylan, a ginger tom from Forfar, and Brooke, a black-and-white female from Cardyke. The pair even had their own cat flap.
After Dylan and Brooke had both passed away, a ginger kitten was donated to the distillery in 2012. This was Barley, whose name was chosen by public vote. Sadly, Barley disappeared in the winter of 2013, never to be seen again.
Barley's successor, Peat, had an even more tragic end. At just a few months old in September, he was struck by a car and died at the local vet's surgery. Peat had already been “interviewed” by the US radio station NPR, and the broadcast went ahead after his death.
Highland Park distillery at Kirkwall on Orkney also has a long tradition of mousers. Having been founded in 1789, the distillery had cats on staff for more than 200 years. However, after the death of another cat called Barley in 2006, he was not replaced, bringing the tradition to an end. The staff still have fond memories of Barley, terrorising the manager's dog and sleeping on top of the shop till.
Elvis is another famous cat, whose home is the Jura distillery on Isle of Jura. He was fitted with a Cat Cam on his collar, to offer visitors a cat's eye view of the island. On the camera, he caught a glimpse of a ghostly figure, made famous in Gregory Branson-Trent's Tales of the Supernatural.
There will soon be a new distillery cat on the scene too, at Lindores Abbey Distillery in Fife. The site of the distillery has a history with whisky going back to the fifteenth century. The staff are looking for a new mouser prior to opening to the public this summer, while the current cat, Toffee, eases into retirement.